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ASCI, FSSAI partner against misleading F&B ads

As part of the agreement, ASCI will identify contentious ads and FSSAI will investigate them.

The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has signed an agreement with the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) to safeguard consumers against misleading claims in food and beverage (F&B) advertisements.

The agreement was signed in the presence of Arun Singhal, CEO, FSSAI, and professor Bejon Misra, adviser, Public Affairs, ASCI, on July 1st. As per the agreement, ASCI will identify advertisements which prima facie violate provisions of Food Safety And Standards (Advertising And Claims) Regulations, 2018, and FSSAI would further investigate these. Under the agreement, ASCI will set up a three-member expert panel to evaluate F&B advertising identified by the ASCI monitoring team.

There has been a marked increase in the number of complaints against F&B ads during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the last financial year (FY) ASCI has processed a total number of 284 complaints compared to 175 in FY 2019-20. So, claims by F&B brands, particularly those related to health and nutrition, are under greater scrutiny. Food and health continue to be important focus areas for ASCI.

With this association, ASCI further strengthens its 360-degree approach of protecting consumers as well as guiding brands, agencies, and influencers towards greater responsibility. As per a report published by media agency Zenith, India will be the fastest-growing market for FMCG brands’ F&B advertising over the next three years with spending rising 14% a year. With the rise in digital consumption, it is expected that FMCG brands’ digital ad spends will increase from $12.3 billion in 2020 to $14.9 billion in 2023. This further necessitates the monitoring of F&B advertisements.

Manisha Kapoor, secretary-general, ASCI, said, “With this agreement, ASCI will intensify its scrutiny of the F&B sector. We will tap our National Advertising Monitoring Service, which monitors over 900 TV channels and publications, and over 3,000 websites. Besides national brands, we will examine regional and local ones. Our experts, with decades of experience in the F&B sector, will shortlist those advertisements that require further scrutiny by FSSAI."

Subhash Kamath, chairman, ASCI, added, “This is a significant collaboration. The common goal of consumer protection drives us all to share skills, expertise and resources in the most effective way to curb the menace of misleading advertising.”